Under the Weather

I grew up in the Midwest, and we have extreme weather because we are far from the modifying influence of any ocean. During the summer, we can soar to over 100-F; during the winter, we can bottom out at 20-F below zero. Wouldn’t it be great if we Midwesterners could take a big stick and stir together this hot and cold to create a nice, pleasant annual temperature?

Most telephone salespeople go through the same cycle: first they are red hot – closing sales left and right. Then nothing seems to work – they go cold. It’s all part of being in a sales position of course, and the larger the average sale, the more dramatic the ups and downs. For the sales manager, it is hard not to intervene when sales are down, because it’s the sales manager’s job to deliver consistent revenue. Most managers are always on the hunt for anything that may stand in the way of the monthly goal. But should you intervene? Is it really a problem, or is it a statistical bounce time will cure on its own? Just like a warm spring surely follows the coldest winter.

Consider, is the problem department wide or limited to a representative? If it is department wide, what has changed? A recent price increase perhaps, or a product revamp or maybe your customers know a new release is coming, and they are waiting.

If the problem is not department wide, check activities. Has the affected sales representative done calls consistently? Look at talk time, has the average length of call dropped which may indicate a quality issue? Look at the pipeline, is the pipeline consistent over time, or has there been fall off in prospecting? If there is an activity issue, has the representative been tied up on a larger proposal, or distracted by a non-sales project, or perhaps extended vacation?

Second, is it a territory issue, perhaps a large customer has reduced purchases unexpectedly, or something economically is happening in the territory?

Third, listen to some calls. Spend an hour observing, and ask the representative to attempt a wide variety of calls, from prospecting to calls deep in the sales cycle. Is something different? Has the salesperson adopted a mannerism unconsciously that is impacting performance?

Finally, put it all together. Is anything wrong? In most cases, it is simply the highs and lows of the normal sales pattern, and a warm up will soon follow. But the investigation may uncover a problem, and in this case, intervention is warranted.

After all, everyone complains about the weather, but sometimes the sales manager can do something about it.